While it’s clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder are a much better team with each passing year, the Dallas Mavericks have seen the development up close. One year, they’re good enough to beat them on their way to winning the title. The next, they’re done in four games. Head coach Rick Carlisle recently spoke about the team that beat his Mavericks squad and praised them for their growth as a team and individually.
“No question that they got better,” Carlisle said when comparing the last two years of the Thunder’s roster. “When they went through what they did last year where they won two rounds and got in a tough series with us and basically were right there in every game, you take quantum leaps in terms of your emotional growth, understanding what it takes to advance to the highest levels.”
Carlisle likes the growth in certain players in particular, noting just how good Russell Westbrook has gotten and the “major quantum leap” that Serge Ibaka has taken.
“Their players individually have gotten better,” Carlisle went to say. “Westbrook is a better player this year. Durant’s a little stronger and a little bit better. Ibaka has taken a major quantum leap and (Kendrick) Perkins, last year he wasn’t the same player. He was coming off of a surgery the previous summer and there’s a huge difference in his body this year. He’s 20 to 25 pounds lighter, back playing above the rim again and was doing some good things offensively. He really brought toughness to their team. They’re in a great position.”
The biggest test of the post-season awaits the Thunder in five days when they start their series against the San Antonio Spurs. It will be interesting to see then just how much they’ve grown.